DVORÁK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. HAYDN: Cello Concerto No. 2, in D major (Op. 101).
Emanuel Feuermann, cello; Berlin Staatsoper Orchestra, Michael Taube/cond (Dvorák); Symphony Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent/cond (Haydn).

Naxos Historical 8.110908  [B] [ADD]  TT: 70:34

The Austro-Hungarian cellist, Emanuel Feuermann, whom Hitler drove from Germany, and who died in New York City of a burst appendix in 1942 at the age of only 40, was to Pablo Casals as Janos Starker is to Mstislav Rostropovich—a paragon of musicianly elegance rather than a robust, heart-on-sleeve interpreter. He recorded very little for an artist of his public as well as collegial reputation, and while these performances have been known they've never been as lovingly restored as Mark Obert-Thorn has done for Naxos. Their age is obvious: Dvorák dates from the spring of 1928 and early autumn of 1929 (with the 11-minute bonus of early takes in January and April, 1928), while the Haydn was made in EMI's Abbey Road Studio 1 on November 25, 1935, with a free-lance London orchestra.

The Dvorák is startling for its speed, 33:20 overall, and for the unpalatably eccentric conducting of Michael Taube, another survivor of Hitler, who helped to found the Israel Philharmonic. It is treasurable for Feuermann's artistry, withal—for the passion and purity of his playing. These are startlingly well supported by Sargent, on the other hand (no laid-back "Flash Harry" here), in the Haydn concerto of 1783 attributed for so many decades to Anton Kraft, for whom it was written by the court composer (and his conductor) at Esterházy.

While this is a release for specialist collectors, anyone who thinks the cello was reinvented by Yo-Yo Ma is encouraged to listen, albeit at the risk of a dislocated lower jaw.

R.D. (April 2000)